Tue, Jul 19, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Kirk victorious at Viking Classic for first career win

Reuters, NEW YORK

PGA Tour rookie Chris Kirk birdied two of the last four holes on Sunday to win the Viking Classic in Madison, Mississippi, by a single stroke and claim his first career win.

The 26-year-old American birdied the 15th and 17th holes in a closing round of four-under par 68 to regain the outright lead and capture his first PGA Tour title with a total of 22-under.

Tom Pernice and George McNeill finished tied for second at 21-under, while a further three players, Bud Cauley, Hunter Haas and Jim Renner, were a further shot behind as Americans filled the top six places.

The highest-placed foreigner was South Korea’s Kang Sung-hoon, who finished tied for seventh after briefly holding a share of the lead.

Kirk led the tournament by a shot heading into the final round, but with the Annandale Golf Club’s soft greens ideal for low scoring, he was under immediate pressure and did not pull clear until the penultimate hole as a handful of players took turns sharing the lead.

Kirk, who earned his PGA Tour card by finishing second on the Nationwide Tour money list last year, went out in 35 then made two early birdies on the back nine before a bogey on 14. He steadied himself with a birdie at the par-three 15th before regaining the outright lead on the par-four 17th when he hit his approach over the water to within five feet of the hole for an easy birdie putt.

“It was 140 yards and it was a nine-iron,” Kirk said. “So I was aiming right at the pin and nowhere else. That was my only thought.”

Kirk became the fifth rookie to win on the Tour this year, joining Jhonnatan Vegas, Brendan Steele, Keegan Bradley and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel. Pernice, who normally plays on the Seniors Tour, missed a birdie putt on the final hole that would have got him into a playoff and given the 51-year-old the chance to become the second-oldest winner on the PGA Tour.

Sam Snead was 52 when he won the Greater Greensboro Open in 1965.

The only other player over the age of 50 to win was Fred Funk in 2007.

“I just needed to make a good firm stroke, maybe just outside the right edge and all that good stuff. But it looked like I pulled it,” Pernice said.

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